Culex pipiens L. (Diptera: Culicidae) and Culex restuans Theobald are the primary enzootic and bridge vectors of West Nile virus in the eastern United States north of 36° latitude. Recent studies of the natural history of these species have implicated catch basins and underground storm drain systems as important larval development sites in urban and suburban locales. Although the presence of larvae in these habitats is well-documented, the influence of abiotic factors on the ecology of Culex larvae developing in them remains poorly understood. Therefore, we examined the effects of multiple abiotic factors and their interactions on abundance of Culex larvae in catch basins in the Chicago, IL, metropolitan area. Low precipitation and high mean daily temperature were associated with high larval abundance, whereas there was no correlation between catch basin depth or water depth and larval abundance. Rainfall was an especially strong predictor of presence or absence of larvae in the summer of 2010, a season with an unusually high precipitation. Regression tree methods were used to build a schematic decision tree model of the interactions among these factors. This practical, visual representation of key predictors of high larval production may be used by local mosquito abatement districts to target limited resources to treat catch basins when they are particularly likely to produce West Nile virus vectors.
Keywords: Culex pipiens L.; Culex restuans Theobald; catch basin; oviposition site; precipitation
Journal Article. 4149 words. Illustrated.
Subjects: Disease Ecology and Epidemiology ; Entomology
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